Way Too Long

Wow – I knew I hadn’t posted in a long time, but I didn’t realize it’s been 3 months!

I decided to finally look closely at Open Office today for the first time. I have recommended it and I knew it was great, but for some reason I had never downloaded it.   I also found out that there is now an online version – check out Ulteo.

Anyway – I took a Power Point that I created as a pre-reading activity for a novel we’re abotu to start – The Maze by Will Hobbs. It takes place in Utah and since we live in Florida, I figured my students needed a lot of background info. Below is the Power point saved as flash using Open Office Impress.

canyonlands.swf

in·ter·im (ĭn’tər-ĭm)

An interval of time between one event, process, or period and another.

Interims went home yesterday. That means we’re halfway through 1st quarter – an eighth of the year. Most of my students have earned respectable grades. 1st quarter grades are usually the highest grades. Of course some maintain those grades throughout the year, but of the kids who are going to slip, this is usually the best quarter, though many put on better effort for 4th quarter. 2nd quarter is typically the worst quarter for grades. The kids are comfy and they let things slip. But this is only Interims, not final 1st quarter grades. The purpose is to give the kids and parents a look at what is happening so that they can make corrections – or keep up the good work! I have one student with a failing grade. He failed one test and got a 60 on the second. He didn’t do one homework assignment at all and I excused him on the other one. Yes – only 2 graded homework assignments in 5 weeks. We’re reading a novel and most of the homework is to read in the novel. I know I could give a few questions to check that they read, but I don’t 🙂 it will even out by the end of the quarter, though.

I need to post on a great lesson that I did on Friday. I got the lesson from The Reflective Teacher. He has some great ideas that I have stolen….er….borrowed in the past.This lesson was to write a Haiku about what the kids are reading. I changed it up a bit to have the kids describe a character in our novel because our Instructional Focus for the week was Characterization. As a description of how it went, I’m going to post my comment back to The Reflective teacher here:

I did this lesson with my 7th grade reading classes today and it was AWESOME! Every child was engaged and creative and even when I asked them to revise something (not on topic, etc) they didn’t give up and everyone produced amazingly insightful stuff!

It was funny and inspiring to see fingers counting and blank stares into space where you could just see the gears turning in their heads!

They completed the poems so quickly that I let them get on the computers and type them up and illustrate them with clip art.

Thanks again for another great lesson!

Two Weeks

I’ve hit the two week mark for time left in summer vacation. I am in full school thinking mode now. I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to start planning and organizing to make the transition less chaotic (yeah right!) Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  1. I went into school on Thursday to check my schedule (seems like it will be exactly the same as last year – YAY!) and my room (furniture was moved around for me in order to accommodate a cupboard that had to be moved in from the hall due to some construction) and all was exactly like I wanted – YAY!
  2. The Grammar Books that I talked about in this post arrived and they look great – YAY!
  3. I revamped the Newsletter Information sheet that I send out on the first day of school for each of my classes (Reading and Computers)
  4. I revamped the wiki that I use for writing lesson plans. Computer Wheel classes will have plans written by week of the quarter since I do the same thing (pretty much) each quarter. That will cut down on lesson writing for those 2 classes (6th and 7th grade). 8th grade computers is now organized by what topics I will cover each quarter. I tweaked the topics a bit too and I am pleased with how it looks. I moved all of last years plans to new pages. The Reading page is ready and waiting – this is the only subject that I write traditional daily/weekly plans for.
  5. I added Standards and Skills to my Gradebook program. I’m going to try to link standards to my assignments in the gradebook. There is a feature that will allow me to track mastery of standards and skills through grades.
  6. I have started creating new magnet titles for my whiteboard. Since I teach 4 different subjects (Reading and 6th, 7th and 8th Grade Computers) I use the sides of my whiteboard to organize lesson info, homework, etc for each class. The left side is for Reading and the right side for Computers. Additionally, I need to separate the different grades for computers. I do this by creating titles using WordArt for everything that I need and printing them on magnet sheets. The Magnet sheets stick to the whiteboard and I don’t have to write them over every time one gets erased.

There’s still plenty more to do – some can’t be done until I’m actually in my classroom (August 10th), but I’m sure I’ll find ways to keep myself busy.

Oh – and while doing all that I still managed to read the new Harry Potter Book in two days 🙂

FETC and FCAT

We are in crunch time for making sure our students are ready for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). I don’t teach to the test, but I do make sure that during the last month before the test my students know the terminology that they will see on the test and that their test taking skills are perfected.

We have given our students Benchmark tests a few times this year and as a school we have determined that Vocabulary (Words and Phrases in Context) and Reference and Research are two of our areas of need. For the past two weeks I have done vocabulary activities in my classes. My 8th grade Computer class and all my 7th grade reading classes are finishing up Root Word Clusters made with Inspiration software. This week I’m adding something that I learned about at FETC – Princeton Review Vocabulary Minute. You can also find them on iTunes. These are short songs reminiscent of School House Rock that are about various aspects of vocabulary. They do not come with the lyrics, so I sat down today and typed up the words to two of the songs:

bene-is-a-good-boy.doc

delicious.doc

I plan to do these as warm ups, so I added some directions and follow up on the pages.

Each week we have an Instructional Focus. This week’s is Reference and Research. My 8th Grade Computer kids will be doing a research project in which they will have to do research on the Unnamed Hurricane of 1928. 8th graders in Florida have an additional part of the FCAT which is to write a 5-paragraph essay. My students will write an report in the style of the required essay. After that, they will turn it into a documentary using PhotoStory 3. I have used PhotoStory already this year, but I did pick up some new tips for using it at FETC. The students will be required to use photographs, text, music and narration for their documentaries.

My 6th and 7th grade computer kids will also be doing some researched based activities, but on a smaller scale. Their work is coming from a product called EdClass. They will do these projects while learning how to use Microsoft Word in a more productive way.